UPI's Capital Comment for July 3, 2002

By United Press International  |  July 3, 2002 at 8:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Flag waving -- The subject of the cable to U.S. embassy chiefs of mission is "Pledge of Allegiance Recitation." The message from Secretary of State Colin Powell reads as follows:

"Wednesday's decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals found that the teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools violated the Constitution because it includes the words "under God." This decision has not yet taken effect, and has been placed on hold indefinitely while the other judges on that court decide whether to reconsider the case. Furthermore, this was a specific court opinion applicable to that particular situation and location. Consequently, the State Department's Legal Adviser assures me that employees at post may publicly recite the pledge at any appropriate event, including official Independence Day events, as well as all other occasions."

Bonior's bounce -- When House Minority Whip Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., announced he was leaving Congress to make a run for governor, most observers thought he was simply looking for a graceful way to make his exit. Though the GOP had tried for years to beat him at the polls, it was until they controlled the redistricting process in 2000 that they were able to ensure he would lose in his seat. However, a new poll by EPIC/MRA out of Lansing, Mich., shows that Bonior is picking up steam.

The poll of 307 likely Democrat primary voters conducted statewide June 24-27 shows Bonior at 26 percent and former Democrat Gov. Jim Blanchard at 27 percent, a statistically insignificant difference as the survey has a margin of error of 5.7 percent. Both men trail Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, who registers the support of 34 percent of those surveyed, but it is clear the race is tightening considerably with Bonior having picked up 8 points since mid-June when the survey was last taken.

Winston is jake with Utah Republicans -- To the surprise of many, former U.S Sen. Jake Garn resigned from his post as Utah's Republican National Committeeman, citing family and business pressures. On Saturday, the GOP State Central Committee chose Winston Wilkinson, a black Republican, as Garn's replacement. Wilkinson, who had recently lost his bid to win the party's nomination in the 2nd congressional district, defeated state Sen. Curt Bramble and long time White House advance man Ron Fox, whose tenure as an administration aide dates back to the Nixon administration.

On the Net, everything is incorrect -- Comedian Bill Maher, whose Politically Incorrect program on ABC was cancelled after network executives became skittish over the controversial nature of the program in the post-Sept. 11 environment, has taped his last show. Fans of the sardonic comic need not fear however -- Maher has established a site on the World Wide Web at BillMaher.TV where he will continue to share his views about current events. Maher will take part in a online chat on the site on July 16.

Keeping it in the family -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appears to be going ahead with his threat to stop all of President Bush's nominees from being confirmed on the Senate floor until the administration moves ahead with the nomination of Ellen Weintraub to the Federal Election Commission. Weintraub, an election law attorney, is a former staffer on the House Ethics Committee who now practices law in the Washington office of the firm of Perkins-Coie. What has not received much attention is that Weintraub is also the wife of Bill Dauster, the legislative director for Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

Feingold is the principal co-sponsor, along with McCain, of the campaign law for which the FEC is now writing the regulations. The two senators, along with Reps. Chris Shays, R-Conn.; and Marty Meehan, D-Mass., have been mau-mauing the commission of late, telling them that the only thing that matters as far as writing the regs goes is that the commissioners do what McCain and company say.

We're eyeing this race like a hawk -- The race for governor of Iowa is starting out in a virtual tie according to a new survey conducted for the Des Monies Register newspaper. The poll of 800 Iowans -- including a subset of 511 who say "they definitely plan to vote" in the election -- show incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Vilsack at 43 percent to 41 percent for the GOP nominee Doug Gross who is the former chief of staff to former Gov. Terry Branstad. The poll also shows that Vilsack's job approval rating has slipped to the lowest point thus far in his first term as Iowa's chief executive. Only 48 percent of those surveyed say they approve of his performance as governor while 38 percent say they disapprove.

The poll was taken June 21-26 and has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

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